Humans can be strange and funny creatures—many of us are very good at caring for others, from our friends and families to the strangers we compliment and help to the various furry critters we dote on. However, we’re not very good at caring for ourselves. Particularly in a society where sarcasm, modesty and self-deprecation is revered, it’s very easy to drop self-care habits in favor of pushing ourselves to do it all. Women can particularly fall into this trap as we’re shrouded in the idea that we should be Supermom with the ability to perhaps take care of a home, our family and our career in one fell swoop.
The phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” has never been more relevant than it is now. Self-care is paramount not just for the simple reason that every person deserves to be kind to themselves, but also because without it we’ll eventually reach total burnout. What does this look like? Stress can cause incredible body phenomenon from mental issues such as depression, anxiety, nurturing diseases and illnesses, and robbing us of our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being.
It’s time to prioritize self-care in our busy world. Here are ten steps to get started:
- Give yourself permission to say no and start practicing it. People, and women in particular, and groomed to say yes lest you disappoint or displease someone. It’s perfectly okay to say no much of the time. This includes saying no to a friend pushing you to agree to an activity when your body is craving something different (like rest in lieu of a party), saying no to the colleague who’s pressuring you to join a voluntary work committee or help with a project you’re not obligated to, or saying no to a family member who uses emotional blackmail to steal your time. Time is precious. You can’t get it back.
- Adopt a healthy morning ritual. How you start your morning makes a huge difference, and you don’t need a ton of time to make it healthier. Push yourself up from a fetal position on the right side when getting out of bed (yoga teachers claim it’s kinder to the heart). Grab a cup of warm lemon water first thing for oral hygiene and a metabolism booster. Stretch. Do a morning meditation—even for just three minutes. Create a ritual that’s kind to you.
- Practice healthy sleep hygiene. “Sleep hygiene” is a very real practice, and most Americans aren’t very good at it. Remove all electronics from the bedroom to give blue light interference the boot. Discover what your ideal sleep requirements are (eight hours is just a recommendation). Keep the room cool, dark, and quiet except for perhaps some white noise. Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a requirement.
- Design a face regimen. Your skin is the biggest organ you have, and your face gets the brunt of abuse. Skin regimens don’t need to be expensive or take a lot of time, but they are a treat you should afford yourself daily. Start simple, even if that means committing to removing makeup/daily residue before bed no matter what. If you’re really exhausted, simply putting a gentle cleanser wipe box on your nightstand is a big improvement.
- Learn from the past and let it go. Letting it go can be a lot easier said than done. However, learning to let go of the past releases you from shackles that are weighing you down. The vast majority of us live in the past, even when we think that’s a good thing. Worrying about the future is simply a way of using the past to inform what we think might happen tomorrow. Need help letting go? Seek out a mental health therapist—you can even get sessions online to save money and time!
- Practice speaking kindly to yourself. How we talk to ourselves is powerful because our brains are fantastic at making what we think a reality. Whether you abide by spoken daily affirmations or simply monitoring your self-talk, start practicing a kind voice. A lot of people are generally kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves. There should be enough kindness to go around.
- Think of your body as the temple it is, but understand that perfection is dangerous and doesn’t really exist. Of course how we fuel ourselves matters, as does ensuring we practice cardio, strength training and balance. However, there’s a thin line between treating our bodies well in terms of what we eat and how we workout and over- or under-doing it. Set realistic goals, perhaps under the guidance of a nutritionist and/or personal trainer. Try practicing some mindful eating. It’s recommended that we work out 150 minutes per week for optimal health.
- Let go of relationships which no longer serve you. Everyone will have to spend some time with people who aren’t the best for your goals, mindset and health (such as work colleagues). However, when you do have control over your relationships and who gets your time, you have permission to be picky and selfish. Why waste the precious time you have?
- Set realistic goals and use them for motivation. Goals are more powerful when they’re written down, particularly by hand. From career goals to health and relationships, keep a log of what you’d like to accomplish and re-visit it regularly. Bonus points if these goals evolve and change over time. They aren’t actually set in stone.
- Identify “bad habits” and make a plan to change them. We all have bad habits, some of which have been perfected over several decades. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose three that you’d like to tackle, whether it’s gossiping or biting your nails. Consider working with a professional to untangle them.
Self-care is the foundation for a better, happier, healthier and likely longer life. Make sure it’s a pinnacle of your daily living, and think of it as a must—not an option.